How to Spot a Natural and Alternative Medical Quack

By Lisa Barger

Why are so many alternative health sites more “alternative” than “health”? I don’t know either, but typing “natural health” or “alternative medicine” into a search engine will show you just how many natural health sites there are these days. And the topics range from do-it-yourself therapies like aromatherapy to highly invasive procedures like colonics. So how do you know which sites are giving solid medical advice and which are preying on the fears of people overwhelmed by this huge topic? Here are some tips to help you sort the nonsense from the facts:

Not All Alternative Health Organizations Are Legitimate For every natural health expert who works hard to legitimize his or her area of expertise there are dozens of charlatans just waiting to pounce on unsuspecting (and often desperate) people. If the verbiage on a web site or in a brochure feels more like a hard-sell than an attempt to educate clients it probably is. Natural health is a multi-billion dollar industry in the US and quackery is, unfortunately, more common than factual information.

Natural Medicine Is About Empowerment–Not Fear For some reason natural health practitioners are among the worst offenders when it comes to instilling feelings of fear, anger and disenfranchisement into their clients. When I see claims like “the government wants to suppress this” or “the medical community doesn’t want you to read this” I have to wonder why practitioners are moved to such desperate measures just to sell a bottle of herbs. Legitimate practitioners work to educate clients–not polarize and frighten them.

Legitimate Practitioners Don’t Have To Exaggerate Phrases like “miraculous breakthrough” or “works for a variety of ailments” may get your attention but they should also ring your mental warning bells. And be especially skeptical if you see something like “absolutely no side effects”. If a treatment is powerful enough to cause such a profound change in your body it’s going to have at least some potential for side effects.

Legitimate Practitioners Cite Their Sources No one practices in an intellectual vacuum. All legitimate practitioners–even those in natural health–use and read peer-reviewed literature. Look for specific references like “in the June issue of” instead of “a study showed” in articles and web copy. The more detail provided, the better.

No Therapy Is A Cure-All Legitimate practitioners will offer you a variety of options; they won’t try to limit you to their own favorite therapy. I suspect that every practitioner (natural or mainstream) is at least a little bit biased but a good one will work to design a full-spectrum program.

Most Important Natural practitioners are often accused of trying to turn people away from mainstream medicine (and some do) but no legitimate practitioner believes that prescription drugs are evil. Overused, sometimes, but never evil. Legitimate practitioners will encourage their clients to minimize their dependencies on drugs by making changes in their lifestyles but they also know that medications are sometimes a necessary part of life.

Lisa Barger is a traditional naturopath specializing in natural health education. To learn more about Ms. Barger’s belief in “Empowerment through Education” or to take a free online natural health class see her website, Article Source:

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